2017 in Cinema : Part 4 – 80-71

So we’re now fully into the look at 2017 and we’re now starting to approach the films that were ok, if not great. I will not actively go out of my way to watch any of these movies again, but if they were on TV there might be the odd need to watch it if it was there, maybe……sort of…..if I was desperate.

I should probably rename this “The Star Wars Connection Part” as there are numerous actors from the Star Wars franchise that appear in several films on this particular list, and I suspect that this will be arguably my most controversial list due to one particular inclusion this low down.

Again, apologies if the formatting is a little off, I’ve been struggling with it slightly.

80) The Promise

Cast : Oscar Isaac, Charlotte Le Bon and Christian Bale

Plot : Mikael (Isaac) is desperate to become a doctor so he leaves his small Armenian village and goes to Constantinople to join the Imperial Medical Academy. There he meets a lot of hostility due to his heritage, but he does meet fellow Armenian Ana (Le Bon), who he starts developing an attraction to, even though she is in a relationship with Chris (Bale).

World War I soon starts and Michael only manages to avoid being forcefully signed up by his well-connected friend, but one day he is kidnapped and forced into manual labour. He does eventually escape when another prisoner blows himself and several guards up, and he tries to make his way back home.

Why in this position? : If ever there was a film this year that would earn the title of “Far Too Long” it is “The Promise”. Running in at 134 minutes, there is so much filler that I found myself losing a lot of interest, especially as the characters are quite dull. The relationship between Mikael and Ana feels so forced that it becomes unbelievable, and the character of Chris doesn’t offer anything until the final third of the film.

Whilst the locations are beautiful, the acting is decent and parts of the story are actually quite good, the filler that buffs up the run time completely disengaged me as a viewer. Having said that, this is the first film that I’ve seen that made me aware of what the Armenian’s went through during that part of history, so as a history lesson it works very well.

 

 

79) Assassins Creed

Cast : Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons, Ariane Labed, Michael K Williams and Brendan Gleeson

Plot : Callum (Fassbender) is executed via lethal injection for murder, but he wakes up the next day in a medical facility. He is greeted by Sophia (Cotillard), a scientist who tries to explain to him that they want to use memories from his ancestor, Aguilar (also Fassbender), that are encoded in his DNA, to find the “Apple of Eden”, a device that she claims will cure all anger and violence in the world. He is unwillingly hooked up to a machine that sends him hurtling back into the past and into Aguilar’s memories.

Aguilar lived during the days of the Spanish Inquisition and he is trying to stop the Templars from acquiring the “Apple of Eden”, who are using a prince as bait for his father to give it up. Callum wakes after the session becomes desynchronised, but it turns out that there are some in the modern day that are willing to kill him as well so that he doesn’t give up information that could spell disaster for everyone.

Why in this position? : I really like the Assassins Creed games, and in many ways this does feel a lot like the games in the sense you keep swapping between the past and the modern world, expect for this is the opposite way around and that is also true in terms of development. The characters in the historical section of the game are not realised at all, they’re so underdeveloped that when one of them dies, there isn’t really an emotional connection to them, even if the film is trying to convince you otherwise.

There is also a distinctively different filming style between the past and present sections. In the present day sections there is a much cooler palette used and steady, stable shots, whereas in the sections in the fifteenth century the camera is all over the place and there is a definite orange filter. The historical sections of the film are short and action packed, but the camera angle so much that it is hard to get a true basis of what it going on. I noticed it during a chase scene for the first time, and I counted 20 angle changes in the space of thirty seconds. That’s a lot.

Infact, other than the characters Callum and Sophia, no characters are really developed at all. The relationship between those two is all that keeps the film even remotely interesting, but the problem is that towards the end it seemed more intent on setting up a sequel than it did actually making the end feel justified.

 

 

78) 47 Metres Down

Cast : Mandy Moore, Claire Holt and Matthew Modine

Plot : Kate (Holt) and Lisa (Moore) go on holiday to Mexico after the latter splits up with her boyfriend. After a night on the town they are told about shark-diving by romantic interests, with Kate eventually talking a normally risk-free Lisa into doing it.

During the dive the chain holding the cage snaps, sending the sisters crashing to the ocean floor. They eventually get communications back with the boat they were on, although they are told that they can’t simply swim for it or nitrogen bubbles will form in their brain and kill them. It wouldn’t be that easy to swim away anyway due to the sharks now circling the cages.

Why in this position? I’m going to start this by talking about the end of the film and the pacing used. I am not going to give it away but it is possibly the most abrupt ending I’ve ever seen from a film, certainly this year. The ending is a little predictable and I have seen the false-escape scenario a few times in the past, but none that I can recall have ended so quickly after the character is shot back to reality.

The ending snapped me out of the film completely and the lack of easing out of the story really didn’t help. I wouldn’t go as far as saying I was enjoying it before then as I found the two lead characters to be a bit boring, with the character of Kate somehow not even reaching the status of being one-dimensional. When one of your two leading characters doesn’t actually have a character then how can we really care?

Visually the film is great and I have no complaints in that sense, but it takes more than visuals to make a good film.

 

77) Star Wars : The Last Jedi

Cast : Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Mark Hamill, Oscar Isaac, John Boyega, Carrie Fisher, Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern and Domnhall Gleeson

Plot : Rey (Ridley) has travelled to a distant planet in the hopes of getting trained in the ways of the Jedi by the legendary Luke Skywalker (Hamill). He is very reluctant though as she shows comparable power to failed student Kylo Ren (Driver). Whilst this is all going on Rey and Kylo seem connected by the force in some way and can communicate regularly with each other. This connection eventually leads Rey to discover what really happened between Kylo and Luke.

Meanwhile, Leia (Fisher) is attempting to lead the last of the resistance away from the First Order and demotes Poe (Isaac) after he ignores her orders when attacking a ship. They come out of light speed, but the First Order is only thirty seconds behind them and this seems impossible. They need to escape but with fuel running low and Leia in a coma, it only seems like a matter of time before they are destroyed.

Why in this position? : Every year a new Star Wars movie comes out these days and the same high profile reviewers trip over themselves trying to praise it, but the problem is that none of them seem objective and put simply, “The Last Jedi” is not worth the praise it got from most.

The plot is somewhat tedious as one of the three main storylines is quite literally a ship very, very, very slowly floating away from the antagonists, it takes a while for Rey and Luke to get going to the less said about Rose and Finn the better. There are a LOT of characters in this film but so few are given development or even anything to do. Chewbacca, R2D2 and C3PO are seemingly just there for nostalgic reasons, whereas some many other characters are actually completely irrelevant in the long run.

There was one moment that I loved though and that is the conclusion of the meeting between Kylo, Rey and Snoke. It was the only moment during the film that I enjoyed, but the problem was that whilst I felt that the relationship between the three was well built to that point, when I felt about it in retrospect that should have been a scene in the final part of the trilogy as with more than a full movie to go, it felt like a bit of a waste.

 

 

76) Lego Batman

Cast : The voices of Will Arnett, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson, Zach Galifianakis and Ralph Fiennes,

Plot : Batman (Arnett) has yet again just saved Gotham City from the clutches of the Joker (Galifianakis) and he ends it by declaring the his seeming arch-nemesis actually means nothing at all to him. This deeply upsets Joker and he decides to try and convince Batman that they are meant to fight each other. Batman on the other hand just goes about his lonely life before unintentionally adopting a young child, Dick (Cera), and falling in love with the new police commissioner.

Joker decides the only way to get Batman to reveal his true level of hate for him is to go to the Phantom Zone and convince all of the other bad guys in there to come back to Gotham with him and take over.

Why in this position? : I didn’t like “Deadpool” last year for the same reason that I didn’t really like “Lego Batman”, it just tries too hard and nothing feels at all believable. I know it’s hard to really have a feeling of realism whilst watching a film about Lego, but even then there are just some things that are just completely ridiculous.

There are aspects that I did like, such as how many antagonists from fiction are portrayed in Lego form that you’d never expect to be in this film, but most of the characters are exceptionally one dimensional, with only The Joker really proving any different. The way he is characterised is actually pretty decent.

 

 

75) Sing

Cast : The voices of Matthew McConaughey, Taron Egerton, Scarlett Johansson, Reese Witherspoon, Seth McFarlane and John C Reilly

Plot : Buster (McConaughey) is in charge of a failing theatre and decides to hold a singing competition in an attempt to get some publicity, but his secretary accidentally advertises the price as $1,000,000, rather than the intended $1,000, and it isn’t until after the competition starts that he realises this.

Despite this he decides to continue and several aspiring singers continue throughout the competition, reaching the latter stages, but each has their own little reasons for wanting to win, such as wanting to escape a life of crime, achieving more than they thought possible, or simply showing their former lover what they’re missing.

Why in this position? : “Sing” is one of those films that a lot of people will see the cast and think that will automatically make it good, whereas this is most definitely not the correct outcome. “Sing” is vapid nonsense about trying to be yourself. It is completely uninspired and worst of all, it isn’t even remotely fun.

There are the odd moments here and there that stand out, such as Gunter dancing in an ill-fitting leotard, but other than that this is completely forgettable. Admittedly I have not watched this since seeing it in cinema, but I can only remember the character arc of two of the plentiful cast, and that certainly isn’t a good thing at all.

Not awful, but definitely not good.

 

 

74) Atomic Blonde

Cast : Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, John Goodman, Sofia Boutella, Toby Jones and Eddie Marsan

Plot : Lorraine (Theron) is sent to Berlin a few days before the wall is knocked down at the end of the 1980s to try and locate a list of all secret agents in the area. She immediately realises that her visit was anticipated by the Russians. She is rescued from a kidnapping attempt by David (McAvoy), another spy who has fallen in love with the city.

As time goes on Lorraine realises that the list is in the head of a man named Satchel (Marsan), but he is an even bigger target than she is and getting him out might be her toughest mission yet.

Why in this position? : Right from seeing the trailer you realise that music is going to be a huge part in this movie, mainly using it to help establish the time period and environment, but the problem is that the filmmakers have used this in the film to try and hide a film that is not at all exciting or entertaining.

It’s predictable too and I correctly guessed what the twist would be from the trailers alone. That is the problem with the movie. It is well acted and whilst I wouldn’t go as far as saying it was boring, there wasn’t anything that surprised me throughout the entire movie.

Completely forgettable.

 

 

73) Logan Lucky

Cast : Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Daniel Craig and Riley Keough

Plot : Jimmy (Tatum) is fired from his job when his employers notice that he has a permanent limp, he goes to drown his sorrows at the bar of his one-handed brother Clyde (Driver). Together they realise that they can make a killing stealing from Nascar. They decide to convince local bank robber Joe Bang (Craig) to help them, the only issue is that he is currently in jail.

Why in this position : “Logan Lucky” is one of those films that looked so promising from the trailer and I got the sneaky feeling that this could be a dark horse for the top ten, but what I got was a lifeless attempt at comedy with immediately forgettable characters. The jokes feel forced and poorly executed.

You’re given no reason whatsoever to want the characters to succeed, they’re all pretty one dimensional, with maybe (and I do stress maybe) the exception of Joe Bang. Jimmy having a kid doesn’t really change anything for me and I was struggling to really care about them. No-one puts in a bad performance, but on the flip side no-one is great either.

The one saving grace is that whilst not being particularly engaged with the movie, I was never bored. Whilst not enough to entertain me, it just about kept my attention for the length.

 

 

72) Detroit

Cast : Will Poulter, John Boyega, Algee Smith, Jack Reynor, Ben O’Toole, Jason Mitchell, Anthony Mackie, Hannah Murray and Kaitlyn Dever

Plot : In the middle of a war between the citizens of Detroit and the police in the late 1960s, a group of friends go to the Algiers Hotel for the night to have a good time. Whilst there one of them shoots in the general direction of the military that has come in to help the police control the riots. This prompts several police officers, lead by Krauss (Poulter) to investigate.

Upon arrival the police officers force all of the people in the hotel against a wall and takes each of them into a room one by one, pretending to kill them in the hopes that others will start talking and reveal the identity of the shooter. Things take a turn though as Demens (Reynor) doesn’t realise what is truly going on and actually kills one of the men, leading to a more panicked situation.

Why in this position? : I’ve never been a fan of Kathryn Bigelow films and this didn’t change with this effort. Whilst based on true events, according to various reports anyway (which Bigelow disclaims at the end of the movie rather than at the beginning might I add), I never found the story to be that engaging or educational. Whether it’s just because films based on race have been densely populating our screens during 2017, or whether that it’s just not a film that is enjoyable, I find myself completely ‘meh’ about the film. I wasn’t bored at any point, but I wasn’t engaged at any point either.

I knew nothing about the events of the Algiers before watching this film, or indeed the Detroit riots in the 1960s, and this film doesn’t really help with that. I also felt a lack of really empathy for some of the characters against the wall because they knew for a fact that their friend, who was dead by this point anyway, had been shooting at the military. They were stupid for not just coming straight out with it, making the whole situation comically avoidable. They were the cause of their own situation and whilst Krauss and Flynn do go too far, ultimately those against the wall are stupid by not revealing who shot at the military, and a large portion of sympathy goes out of the window.

That being said, the cast do a great job. Will Poulter is the best that I’ve seen him and John Boyega, whilst not actually having a role that impacts the overall circumstance in the slightest, is fairly decent, especially in the immediate aftermath.

 

 

71) Wonder

Cast : Jacob Tremblay, Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson, Izabela Vidovic, Noah Jupe, Bryce Gheisar and Mandy Patinkin

Plot : Auggie (Tremblay) was born with numerous disfigurements and was homeschooled during his childhood and surgeries. One day however the family decide that it is time for him to go to normal school. Despite his fears he agrees to this, but he is bullied on the first day by rich kid Julian (Gheisar).

As time goes on Auggie struggles with the routine, but he one day helps Jack (Jupe) to cheat on a test and the two become good friends, helping Auggie to gain acceptance, but little does he realise what impact he has had on his family.

Why in this position? : “Wonder” would be a far more enjoyable film were it not for the ridiculously one dimensional and tedious character of Auggie. Don’t get me wrong, Tremblay is ok as the character (let’s face it, he should be given that he only seems to get roles in which he plays a child with physical or mental scars), but Auggie is very dislikable. I’ve worked with many people with disabilities and unfortunately have some in my immediate family with some, and none of them let their disability define them as much as Auggie does.

However, other than Auggie being exceptionally hard to get behind as a character, this is a somewhat decent film and I do like the aspect that you realise that a disability actually impacts everyone around the person with the ailment, not just him or her.

Owen Wilson’s Nate doesn’t really add a lot to the story other than being a down-to-Earth and relaxed Dad, and there are a lot of characters that are actually good, such as Jack, but unfortunately they can’t make it for the level of tediousness experienced when Auggie is on screen.

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